Sneddon’s Case Too Weak to withstand Prelim?–MJEOL Bullet #102Update

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Sneddon’s Case Too Weak to withstand Prelim? – MJEOL Bullet #102 It is now being reported by that the district attorney in the Jackson case “has taken the first steps toward convening a criminal grand jury” in the Jackson case. What is so curious about this is that normally one thinks a DA convenes a grand jury BEFORE charges are filed against a defendant. In this case, Sneddon has already filed charges against Jackson. So what possible reason could there be to convene a grand jury after charges have already been filed in this case? One possible reason could be that the prosecution is afraid their allegedly “strong” case and their “cooperative witnesses” won’t stand up to cross-examination by Jackson’s attorneys. There have already been a number of devastating documents released about the accusing family as well as a document from Child Services clearing Jackson of these very molestation charges in Feb 2003.

Criminal defense attorney Steve Cron and Fmr. DA Paul Pfingst appeared on the Abrams Report today (March 10) to talk about this issue. Pfingst says a possible reason why the DA may call a grand jury is

“…if there are uncooperative witnesses and they’re not giving statements to the police or prosecutors, you can subpoena them in front of the grand jury and get their testimony”

Could the DA have called this grand jury to force “uncooperative witnesses” to testify? Further, which “witnesses” are not cooperating with the prosecution? Those are questions we will have to wait to get answers to. With a grand jury, neither the defense attorneys nor the defendant are present. The defense cannot cross-examine or question any of the things the prosecution is presenting whether that information be true or false. The process is secretive but nothing seems to be secret in this case. During grand jury meetings, the prosecution has an obligation to also present evidence from the defense that may exonerate Jackson. If they fail to do this, Jackson’s attorneys can file a motion with Judge Melville to get any indictment—that may have come from jurors not knowing Jackson’s evidence—thrown out:

“While the defense may use the grand jury transcript to impeach a witness during the trial, from the defense perspective, grand jury proceedings give an unfair advantage to the prosecution because the defense can’t put on any evidence or cross-examine a witness…” (Newspress)

The more important question is why in the world would prosecutors select to convene a grand jury at this late date? They can claim it’s to make the alleged victim more comfortable or to protect him. This excuse simply doesn’t wash because prosecutors could have already done this before filing charges against Jackson, and since same alleged victim may also have to testify during a normal trial. Could this “case” not be as strong as prosecutors have led the public to believe? I’d bet money on that. Jackson’s defense attorney Mark Geragos was interview by Larry King (Dec 18) in which he questioned whether or not Sneddon could convene a grand jury after the fact, and expressed a desire to have a preliminary hearing:

GERAGOS: The jury can — the jury will be instructed on certain things. I don’t need to jump that far ahead. Who knows if there will be a trial in this case? KING: Might not be a trial? GERAGOS: When they go to a preliminary hearing in this case, I would invite them to go by way of a preliminary hearing so that I can have a chat with the witnesses. Because I believe once we have a chat, it will become readily apparent as to what this case is about. KING: So, you’re asking for that over a say, a grand jury… GERAGOS: I don’t believe they can go to a grand jury. There’s a lot of technical legal reasons. But no. I don’t think they can go to a grand jury. I don’t see how it gets past the preliminary hearing. (see Mark Geragos on Larry King Live CNN – TRANSCRIPT )

When asked whether a grand jury will help or hurt the defense, criminal defense attorney Cron says:

“I don’t think it is because if you’re Jackson’s lawyers, what you wanna do is, at the preliminary hearing, you want to point out all the problems that exist with the prosecution’s case. You wanna be able to question the witnesses. You wanna be able to test their recollection, their veracity, their ability to relay events in a competent manner. And at a grand jury, it’s all done in secret, there’re no defense lawyers there, Jackson’s not present. You don’t even, as a defense lawyer, know what’s going on.” (transcript coming tomorrow)

Going the grand jury route may make it possible for Sneddon to have an excuse if they can’t get an indictment. He can blame it on the grand jury if this case gets stopped in its tracks for lack of evidence. Loyola University Law professor Laurie Levinson says:

“They get to see how well he holds up as a witness,” she said. “It also shifts the political pressure away from Sneddon if the grand jury decides there is not enough evidence to indict.” (see Newspaper says prosecutor convening grand jury in Jackson case).

This new bit of information is being heavily discussed among certain communities with some members seeing this as desperation on the part of the prosecution. One person says, “It seems to me that the evidence is WEAK and the prosecution is just plain scared of the defense.” Another person comments “This could be a good thing, because a grand jury in this case may come to the same result as the grand jury did in the 93 case—that there isn’t enough evidence to issue an indictment.” The reason Sneddon could arrest Jackson, ransack his home and file charges is because the law in California changed after the 1993 case specifically for Jackson. The law, 288a, was tailored to fit the non-existent case Sneddon had against Jackson then. This law, often referred to as ‘the Michael Jackson law”, only requires a person making an allegation. That’s it. It then comes down to who the jury believes. And since Jackson and his team had grown increasingly leery of this family, it will be interesting to see what evidence Jackson has that exonerates him. It will also be interesting to see whether ‘the Michael Jackson law’ stands up as a result of this current case. Stay tuned. -MJEOL

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